Taming the Environmental Data Jungle
Your local river tends to flood. Is there anything you as a local councillor or farmer, for instance, can do to reduce the risk or cope better with the consequences? How big is the threat and what counter-measures have proved successful elsewhere in the country? The good news is that the world is awash with data, computer models and IT tools that could help you make sense of just this kind of pressing problem. The bad news is, they can be almost impossible to find and are typically pitched at a level where expert technical knowledge is at a premium. But thanks to the LWEC-accredited Environmental Virtual Observatory (EVO), that could be about to change.
“EVO is a pilot project exploring the scope to bring together a whole range of environmental data and models and make them available to people who could make constructive use of them,” explains Dr Lucy Ball, Project Manager. “The aim is to harness the latest cloud computing technologies to provide a single access point that enables information to be pinpointed, integrated, manipulated and analysed, even by non-experts, to inform decision-making.”
The pilot is focusing on land and freshwater science, but the potential to extend the concept to embrace all kinds of local, national and global environmental issues is obvious.
“There are hurdles to tackle,” Lucy Ball says. “For example, will scientists and researchers be willing to open up their work for general access? But the net benefits of EVO – to policy-makers, industry, regulators, members of the public and the scientific community itself – are potentially extraordinary.”